As we patiently wait for the return of Premier League action, it`s not too early to speculate about Antonio Conte`s probable line-up for the Blues next game. Chelsea face an out of form Crystal Palace side at Selhurst Park at 3pm Saturday afternoon. Palace are so out of form that they have not won a Premier League game, nor scored a single goal in seven attempts.
With Alvaro Morata and now, N`golo Kante likely to be missing through injury, Conte is likely to have to shuffle his players once more. This season is providing Conte the chance to manage a larger group of players than last season as injuries and suspensions play their part. As ever, the first name on the team sheet will be,
Thibaut Courtois – We a led to believe, from countless media stories that Tibo is reluctant to sign a new contract at Chelsea as he waits for Real Madrid to make a move for him. Whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen. We do know that while he`s at the club, if he`s fit, he starts.
Antonio Rudiger – Rudi is currently on international duty with Germany, he didn`t play in the 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland on Friday, but may feature as the Germans take on Azerbaijan in their final World Cup qualifying game today. Rudiger has made a solid start in Chelsea`s defence and has done enough to see captain, Gary Cahill sit this one out.
David Luiz – Our ‘fuzzy haired` central defender may be fortunate to return to the starting XI following his 3 match suspension for a rash challenge in the game against Arsenal. Conte will want to give Luiz game time ahead of Wednesday`s home tie against Roma in the Champions League.
Cesar Azpilicueta – Fast becoming a Chelsea legend, ‘Dave` is a starter for every game. Solid in defence, leads by example when Cahill`s not present, and now forming an assist partnership with fellow countryman Alvaro Morata.
Marcos Alonso – Not had the best of starts this season, but still a threat from set-pieces and with little competition for his place, he remains our left-sided wing-back. Having missed the cut for the Spanish squad, he`ll be raring to go on Saturday.
Tiemoue Bakayoko – The Frenchman was not called up into the national squad for the current round of fixtures. Bakayoko is beginning to form a good relationship with N`golo Kante, but like Luiz he`s better going forward than defending. However, with Kante missing Conte may decide to play Cesc Fabregas who also missed out on international duty.
Danny Drinkwater – It`s believed Double D is very close to being fit for this game. Given Palace`s lack of form, it may a good game for Drinkwater to finally make his Chelsea debut. Antonio Conte has had plenty of time to work with the former Leicester player and integrate him into the side.
Davide Zappacosta – With Victor Moses having travelled extensively, he`s likely to be rested for this game with Roma being in Conte`s mind. Zapp`s not had much of chance at Chelsea yet, his highlight that goal against Qarabag in the Champions League. He played for Italy as they drew with Macedonia on Friday, although not a great performance, he ought to be good enough to play at Palace.
Eden Hazard – With full fitness returning, Chelsea are a much stronger outfit with Hazard present. There`s not much else to say really, if fit, he has to play. He`s a game changer and a matchwinner.
Pedro – Like fellow countryman Marcos Alonso, the attacking midfielder has struggled to be consistent this campaign, so far. He`s quality though, and still knows where the net is. He get`s the nod over Willian, who is also struggling for form.
Michy Batshuayi – Rumours abound about the extent Alvaro Morata`s injury, and don`t be surprised if the Spaniard starts. If Morata fails to make it, Batshuayi has to be given the opportunity by Conte. The Italian didn`t use the Batman against Manchester City when Morata came off for ‘tactical` reasons. Conte has to show faith in Michy for this one. For sure he has a goal in him.
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